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Hope for pastoralists as the government launches Feedlot program

 Sheep feed at Surqa Farm in Kajiado on July 19, 2022. [Esther Jeruto, Standard]

In Kenya's arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL), pastoralist communities have long relied on livestock as their primary source of livelihood.

However, recurrent droughts pose a constant threat, often leading to devastating losses of livestock and severe economic hardship for these communities.

The national government, through the State Department of ASAL and Regional Development, in partnership with the ASAL counties, is seeking to establish feed lots, which will provide quality feeds for livestock, sufficient water during dry seasons and a market for the livestock.

Principal Secretary in the State Department of ASAL and Regional Development Kello Harsama said they will also incorporate breed improvement to ensure the locals keep healthy livestock.

“This is a way of empowering pastoralists to overcome the struggles they go through in their daily lives, especially during dry seasons. We have seen, the majority of them, lose their livestock, which they rely on for livelihood,” said Kello Harsama.

Harsama was speaking during the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the national and the Marsabit governments.

“We lost more than 2.5 million heads of cattle due to drought, with 99 percent of that reported in ASAL areas, and we no longer want to hear about the death of livestock as a result of drought again,” he said.

Marsabit Governor Muhamud Ali hailed the FeedLot Program as a game-changer for local communities, citing the staggering loss of 70 percent of livestock during the last drought season.

“Most of our people lost their livestock, and a good number of them have never recovered, so this program means a lot to them. I’m sure this will change the lives of many, considering that livestock is the only source of livelihood for pastoralists,” said the governor.

Ewaso Nyiro North Development Authority CEO, Ali Hassan, who will be implementing the program, said the program calls for collaboration between government agencies and local stakeholders.

“We are also going to introduce  drought-resistant crops to ensure that the area becomes self-sustainable in the food supply, as we conserve the environment through planting fruit trees,” he said.

“Once we start the program, we will also ensure we have market linkages for livestock. We are looking forward to having international markets and taking advantage of available resources like the Isiolo abattoir and the International Airport,” he added.

The launch of the Feed Lot Program in Marsabit County is just the beginning, with plans to roll out the program in 31 other counties across the country.

Marsabit County has already donated 5,000 acres of land identified in Walda area to facilitate the program.

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